Is an Itchy Anus the Sign of an STI?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are an infection that is primarily spread through sexual contact. The high rates of STIs in the United States make it a national health concern. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most common STIs in the United States.

STIs can cause anal itching. It is a common symptom of several STIs like herpes, gonorrhea, warts, and crabs. However, there are many other causes of anal itching that are not related to STIs.

This article will cover the STIs that can cause anal itching, their treatment, and prevention. It will also discuss the other conditions that cause anal itching.

Man sitting on a bed looking uncomfortable

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STIs That Cause Anal Itching

Several STIs can cause anal itching, including:

Anal Herpes

Anal herpes is caused by one of two types of the herpes simplex virus. It is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. It is oftentimes spread by people who do not know that they have the herpes infection because they do not have any symptoms.

Anal herpes infection causes outbreaks of skin inflammation and small blisters in the genital and anal areas. The blisters develop in groups and can break open. The symptoms of anal herpes are:

  • Itching in the genital and anal area
  • Small blisters around the genitals and anus
  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Penile discharge


Gonorrhea is the second most common STI in the United States. It is caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium. Someone can have gonorrhea and be asymptomatic (not having any symptoms).

However, when someone does have symptoms, their symptoms can include:

  • Anal itching
  • Anal discharge
  • Soreness and pain around the anus
  • Painful bowel movements

Genital symptoms in males include:

  • Painful urination
  • Yellow, green, or white discharge from the penis
  • Testicular or scrotal pain

Genital symptoms in females include:

  • Painful urination
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding in between periods

Anal Warts

Anal warts is an STI caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Warts can grow on the outside or inside of the anus. The warts are usually painless in the beginning but can grow larger and become painful and itchy. In some cases, people may not have any noticeable symptoms. When symptoms are present they can include:

  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Mucus discharge
  • Light brown or light beige-colored lumps or small bumps around the anus


Crabs (Pthirus pubis) also known as pubic lice, are a parasite that is found in pubic hair. It can occasionally be found in other coarse hair like armpit hair and eyebrows.

Crabs are generally spread through sexual contact but can also be spread through bed sheets, clothing, and towels used by someone who has crabs.

The symptoms of crabs are:

  • Itching in the genital and anal areas
  • Visible lice or nits (lice eggs) in pubic hair
  • Bruising from repeated lice bites

Crabs may be hard to find if there are only a few. They do not crawl as fast as head lice and usually attach themselves to more than one pubic hair.

Other Common Causes

There are several other causes of an itchy anus. Here are some of the more common causes:


Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in and around the anus caused by excess pressure. The pressure can come from childbirth, pregnancy, straining on the toilet, or from being constipated.

These veins can create large bumps causing anal itching, bleeding in the stool, and pain.

They are incredibly common, with approximately half of people getting them by the time they are 50 years old.

Skin Irritation

Skin irritation is a common cause of anal itching. The skin around the anus is thin and sensitive. When it is irritated it causes itching and pain.

Skin irritation can be caused by several different things. Some of the more common causes are:

  • Scented soaps and lotions
  • Excessive cleaning of the anus after a bowel movement
  • Residual stool after a bowel movement
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis

Anal Fissure

An anal fissure is a tear, crack, or opening in the anus. It is caused when the skin is stretched past its normal ability causing injury. Passing a hard bowel movement can create an anal fissure.

The symptoms of an anal fissure are:

  • Bloody stools
  • Pain during and after bowel movements
  • Itchy anus
  • Tears or cuts visible in the anus

Additional Causes

These causes are less common, but they may also cause anal itching. If you are concerned about one of these issues, speak to your healthcare provider.

Risk Factors for Itchy Anus STIs

The risk factors for getting an STI that causes anal itching are:

  • Sex without a condom
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Sex while using alcohol or drugs (increases the likelihood of engaging in sex without protection)


Diagnosing STIs can be done in a few different ways. For some STIs, a healthcare provider can diagnose the infection based on its appearance and the patient's health history. Other ways to diagnose an STI can include:

  • Blood test
  • Swabbed culture
  • Vaginal swab
  • Urine test

It's so important to get an STI diagnosis as soon as possible to prevent complications from the condition.


Each type of STI is treated differently and needs to be directed by a healthcare provider. Here are a few possibilities of how a healthcare provider may treat the following STIs or conditions:

  • Anal herpes: No cure but treatment with antiviral medication can lessen outbreaks
  • Gonorrhea: Antibiotics
  • Anal warts: Topical ointments, surgical removal, cryotherapy, laser removal, and antiviral injection
  • Crabs: Crab-killing lotion, available over the counter or prescription
  • Hemorrhoids: Ice packs, hemorrhoid cream, additional fiber intake, and surgical removal
  • Skin irritation: Advising to keep the area dry, avoid scratching and rubbing, and to pat the area dry with toilet paper
  • Anal fissure: Correcting constipation issues, topical medications, Botox (onabotulinumtoxinA) injections, and surgery


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists five ways to prevent STIs, including those that cause anal itching. They are:

  • Abstinence: Avoiding sex is the most reliable way to prevent STIs.
  • Vaccination: Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines can help prevent these STIs.
  • Reduce sex partners: Reducing the number of sex partners can lessen the risk for STIs.
  • Monogamy: Mutual monogamy, when both partners agree to only be sexually active with each other and have confirmed they are not infected with an STI.
  • Condoms: Regular and correct use of latex male condoms can help reduce STI transmission.


Certain STIs can cause anal itching. However, anal itching does not mean someone does have an STI. It is also the symptom of other conditions like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and more. Whatever the cause, there are treatments available through a healthcare provider to either cure or minimize the symptoms of anal itching.

A Word From Verywell

Anal itching can be an embarrassing symptom that is difficult to talk about. As uncomfortable as it is, you should not ignore it. If an STI causes itching, prompt diagnosis and treatment can get rid of the symptoms. If you let an STI go untreated, it can cause serious damage to your health.

If you do have anal itching, it doesn't necessarily mean you have an STI. There are multiple other causes and talking with a healthcare provider can help you determine the cause and put you on the right track to alleviate the itch.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How soon do STIs show up?

    The time it takes for an STI to show up from the time someone was exposed is called the incubation period. Each STI's incubation period is different. These are the incubation periods for STIs that cause anal itching:

    • Herpes: four to seven days; or can be months or years
    • Gonorrhea: two weeks
    • Warts: three weeks to years
    • Crabs: three weeks
  • What does gonorrhea look like?

    Someone can have gonorrhea and not have any symptoms. Those who do have symptoms can have pain when urinating, green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, anal itching, painful bowel movements, and rectal bleeding.

  • Is anal itching a common symptom of STIs?

    Yes, anal itching is a common symptom of STIs. It is a symptom of gonorrhea, anal herpes, anal warts, and crabs. However, anal itching is also a symptom of several other conditions not related to STIs. Always talk to a healthcare provider to get the correct diagnosis.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted disease surveillance 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital herpes.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea.

  4. American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. Anal warts.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parasites.

  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hemorrhoids.

  7. Michigan Medicine. Managing perianal itching (pruritus ani).

  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Anal fissures.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV/AIDS & STDs.

  10. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) diagnosis.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Genital warts: diagnosis and treatment.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual transmitted diseases (STDs).

  13. NHS. How soon do STI symptoms appear.

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.